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Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers
with a select treasury of commentaries on all levels of Torah interpretation
Chapter 6 Beraitha 5
with select commentaries

Commentaries used in this translation:
Rashi Commentary (1040-1105)
Rambam Commentary (1135-1204)
Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura Commentary (1445-1515)
Tiferet Yisrael commentary (1782–1860)
Rabeinu Yonah (1180-1263)
Derech Chaim - Maharal of Prague (1525-1609) (hebrewbooks.org/14193)
Biur HaGra of Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna - (1720-1797)
Rabbi Avraham Azoulai commentary - (1570-1643)
Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azoulai (Chida) commentary - (1724-1806)
Chatam Sofer commentary - (1762-1839), along with Ktav Sofer, and others
Ben Ish Chai commentary - (1835-1909)
and many more..

Commentary Level:
  • Min - (level 1) for basic commentaries as relating to the plain meaning (Pshat).
  • Med - (level 2) elaborates more into the theme.
  • Max - (level 3) deeper in, Maharal of Prague.
  • Max+ - (level 4) more themes in the text.
  • ShortMix - (recommended) short version of level 4.
Suggestion: Read once without commentaries (or min). Then a second time with.

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Chapter 6 Beraitha 5פרק ו ברייתא ה
This is the way of the Torah: bread with salt you shall eat, and water by measure you shall drink, and upon the ground you shall sleep, and a life of pain/difficulty you shall live, and in the torah you shall toil. If you do thus, "fortunate are you and it will be good for you" (Tehilim 128) - "fortunate are you" - in this world, "and it will be good for you" - in the World-to-Come. כַּךְ הִיא דַּרְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, פַּת בְּמֶלַח תֹּאכַל, וּמַיִם בִּמְשׂוּרָה תִשְׁתֶּה, וְעַל הָאָרֶץ תִּישַׁן, וְחַיֵּי צַעַר תִּחְיֶה, וּבַתּוֹרָה אַתָּה עָמֵל, אִם אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה כֵן, (תהלים קכח) אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ. אַשְׁרֶיךָ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְטוֹב לָךְ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא

Tiferet Yisrael - "this is the way of the Torah" - this is the way in the beginning of the torah study, even though in the end he will inherit all the good of the world. But he will not merit these good things if he begins to learn out of indulgences and laxness.
Choshev Machshavot - "this is the way of the torah.." - for it was given in the desert, a desolate place. This was in order to teach that one who wants to study torah must make himself into a desert, i.e. [abstain] from pleasures of this world. Thus the road which the torah itself passed through in coming to this world is this road which is far from all indulgences...
Machzor Vitri - "bread with salt.." - if a man has nothing but plain bread to dip in salt, even so, do not refrain yourself from toiling in torah. And if he is rich then all the more so should he toil in torah and it is good for him.

"water in measure" - no man drinks water in measured amount unless there is a shortage of water. Even so, strengthen yourself to learn torah.
Midrash Shmuel - we may say that the primary [point] of this exhortation is also to the wealthy who have the means to enjoy the pleasures of this world. Nevertheless, one should not habituate himself in them. For then he will not be able to learn properly due to being pampered and soft. A second reason is that if he habituates himself in them, he will be forced to annul his time for learning in order to profit money for his great expenses. Therefore, he exhorted generally to the rich and to the poor saying: "eat bread with salt..".

"water by measure you shall drink" - even though one who eats salt becomes thirsty for water and much water will not extinguish his thirst, nevertheless he commanded and said: "water by measure you shall drink" which is a small amount.

In this he hinted on two things. One that he drinks water and not wine. Two "by measure" and not to satiate.

And even if the water is cold, especially in winter, whereby one who drinks them would need to at least not lie on the ground but rather on a bed to warm up a bit. Nevertheless he exhorted and said to sleep on the ground and not be concerned at all.
Meorei Ohr - "bread with salt.." - in the book Mili d'Avot: man is a composite of a physical power (koach chomri) and an intellect power (koach sichli). The physical power is very much opposite to the intellect power. Scripture calls the physical power of lust: "yetzer hara" (evil inclination)..

And since this physical power has many subpowers under it and its numerous powers outnumber and defeat the power of intellect and rule over it, therefore a man needs to submit this power which goes after physical lusts and which is lax in toiling in the intellect.

Furthermore, this physical power already strengthened first in a man for many years since his birth, before the power of intellect began to come out from potential to actual, as written: "for the inclination (yetzer) of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen.8:21)...

Therefore, one who wants to make his occupation in torah primary in deed and study must first strongly break this physical power and submit it absolutely - to the furthest extreme of submission. And then it will be easy to restore it to only what is proper and necessary in such a manner that it will no longer obstruct and distract a man from delving into the wisdom (muskalot) of the torah and from toiling in fulfilling its commandments.

On this he said: "this is the way of torah..", ie the way of one who toils in torah is to first submit his yetzer to the opposite extreme in such a way as to subjugate it to the power of intellect and no longer obstruct it...

Then when you weaken the body [by abstaining] from these pleasures, the physical powers will weaken and the intellect powers will strengthen and you will toil in torah.

"If you do thus 'fortunate are you' - in this world". For one who chases after money and pleasures [of the body] is not happy, ie not satisfied with them. For he always lusts for more than what he has.

But if he lives in the way we mentioned and he is happy with his portion - he is happy, satisfied and rich in this world..
Ruach Chaim - "you shall eat.." - this is as explained in the midrash ne'elam (Zohar Chadash 138b).. for when a man thinks thoughts to cleave to G-d, the yetzer hara comes and says "but what will you eat?.." Know that if you lust for tasty foods and pleasures of the world - you will be distracted all your days and will not be able to do without them. And then when will your torah [study] be done?

For this, take on yourself to learn torah even if you won't have anything but simple bread, salt and water..

This is why he said: "you shall eat", "you shall drink" in future tense while "and in the torah you toil" is in present tense. That is to say: to take upon yourself in the future to eat [even] bread with salt, etc. while toiling in torah..

Another explanation for the change from future tense to past tense is that eating and sleeping is a "falling" for man, as our sages expounded (Bereisheit Rabba 17:5) on the verse: "and G-d fell slumber on the man" (Bereisheit 2:21). Likewise for eating. Therefore, the more one can minimize this "falling" the better, and he will have more time to learn torah.

Thus if he eats bread with salt, etc. which is something ready to eat and there is no need to work to prepare it. Thus he can toil in torah during the time he would have needed to prepare a [cooked] meal. Furthermore, for a meal of bread and salt, a person will not push himself so fast to go eat immediately. Thus he will not abandon his studies immediately when he starts to get hungry. For there is much time in the day and he will have time to eat later.

Thus he wrote "you shall eat" in future tense while "and in the torah you toil" is in present tense. For do not delay it since every second passed can never be returned.
Tiferet Yisrael - "a life of pain you shall live" - ie [even] with emotional pain like anger, anguish, and worry. If in spite of this [pain] you cling to the torah, "fortunate are you.." then you will be the man we spoke on earlier who is crowned with all good of heaven and earth.
Midrash Shmuel - "and a life of pain/difficulty you shall live" - but isn't eating bread with salt, etc. already "a life of pain"? Rather, the intent is that until now he specified only those things most necessary, namely, food, drink, and sleep. But there are many other things and thus he said a great general principle saying: "and a life of pain/difficulty you shall live"..

Alternatively, by nature one who lives a "life of pain" considers himself as dead and his life is not a life. But this is not the way of chasidut (piety). Rather a man needs to rejoice in sufferings. Thus he said "life of pain you shall LIVE". ie this life of pain be considered in your eyes like life and not death.

Alternatively, a man may think that if he does this he will become sick immediately and die in midlife. On this he is promising a man that even if it is a "life of pain" - know that you will live and not die. For that is not what causes death.
Chochma u'Mussar 1:64 - "a life of pain/difficulty you shall live" - he who wants to take upon himself the yoke of torah and its regimen which is for his own good, let him train himself in these things: "bread with salt you shall eat, etc." ie to be free from the distractions of the world and to delve deeply in wisdom with peace of mind and sharp intellect and even to live with great hardship, "a life of pain/difficulty you shall live, and in the torah you shall toil", specifically. The explanation is that this will not distract you from toil in torah. Such a person is the true chacham (wise man).

Therefore one who wants to train himself in the way of wisdom, let him train himself in this path slowly slowly and then certainly he will come to a high level.

The intent of the mishna is not to say that specifically one must live a life of pain. Rather the explanation of the matter is that the mishna teaches us the philosophicall path needed to study wisdom. For as is known what our sages said (see Rambam hichot talmud torah 3:12): "a man should not say: 'I will merit the crown of torah out of [physical] pleasures'. Rather only out of minimal derech eretz and [physical] pleasures".

For the beginning of all bad things is lust.. Thus our sages who love wisdom devoted themselves (masru nafshem) to conquer lust in order to merit wisdom. And as Rabeinu Yonah wrote in Shaarei Torah (1:31): "one who is pure from lust, his acts are upright (yashar) but one who lusts, his acts are not upright".
Shevet Sofer, chelek beit Derush Dalet shabbat hagadol - "a life of pain.." - for in the beginning it will be difficult on a man to serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart. For he still does not understand and know that man's primary purpose is to serve G-d as written: "the end of the matter, all having been heard, fear G-d and keep His commandments for this is all of man" (Kohelet 12:3).

The Rambam explained this (in Mishna sanhedrin, chelek) that from serving G-d out of fear, he will ascend to serving G-d out of love. Then his eyes will illuminate and he will understand how much good is hidden in the torah and mitzvot until he will find that all of his reward itself is in serving G-d.

This is what the sage said: "this is the way of the torah", ie this is the path for one who begins in torah, "bread with salt you shall eat.. and a life of pain..".

For in the beginning of the path, he will consider his life as one of pain (tzar) since he does not find what he seeks.

But "if you do thus" if you toil for some time in torah then "fortunate are you in this world" because "it will be good for you in the next world". For all the pleasures of this world are as nothing in his eyes relative to the mitzvot of G-d.
Chida, Zeroa Yamin - "this is the way of the torah.." - we can explain that the intent is for one to have such great and intense desire in torah that all of his affairs and [worldly] possessions are removed from his eyes. And due to his great desire he does not know to eat and sleep. For all of his heart and mind is in the torah.

If he merits to this, then wihout being forced, he will find that he will eat a small [quantity of] bread with salt and a little [amount of] water and he will sleep on the ground in order to toil in torah. Not that he will do this to afflict himself but rather out of love and desire in torah, along the lines of what is written in Reisheit Chachma (Gate of Love, chapter 4) in the name of R. Yitzchak from Akko, of bllessed memory, regarding the person who desired to marry the princess, see there. For one who desires something causes himself to remove all other things from his mind. This is what was said: "this is the way of the torah. He who wants to merit her (the torah), his desire to cleave to the torah will be very great and from there he will come to "bread with salt, etc. and in the torah you toil" and then the torah will certainly reveal her secrets to him.
Rashi - "bread with salt you shall eat" - he is not speaking on a rich man and not saying to place oneself in a life pain/hardship to learn torah. Rather, the intent is that even if a man has only bread with salt, etc. and he does not have a matress and pillow and sleeps on the ground - even so do not refrain from toiling in torah. For in the end he will learn torah as a rich man.
Maharal - "this is the way of the torah.." - Rashi explains: this is not speaking on a rich man and telling him to live in pain/suffering in order to learn torah. Rather, it means that even if a person [is so poor that he] has only bread and salt, etc. [he should not refrain from learning torah].

However, Rashi's explanation is difficult. For the term: "this is the way of torah" needs clarification since it implies that thus is proper.

Hence it seems the explanation of "this is the way of torah" is as what our sages said:
"Says Reish Lakish: the torah does not endure except on one who slays himself over it, as written (Bamidbar 19:14): 'this is the torah of a man who dies in a tent'" (Shabbat 83b).
The explanation of this is that the torah is [transcendent] intellect while man is of physical body and without a doubt the intellect and the body are opposites and antagonistic to each other.

Therefore, the torah has no [way to] endure in the physical body. For how can the torah which is [transcendent] intellect endure in a physical body? Both are opposites and thus cannot co-exist together. Thus, he said that the torah cannot endure except in a man who slays himself on the torah until he divests of the body completely for the torah and his primary [existence] becomes intellect and not body.

Then the torah can endure by him. For the physical body does not obstruct at all the torah when it is as if it does not exist.. Thus he said here: "this is the way of the torah.." For thus is proper for the torah in that it is [transcendent] intellect - to not be drawn at all after the [physical] enjoyments (taanugim) which are lusts of the body. And then the torah can endure.

But nevertheless, this is talking about a person who can bear [the harsh discipline] and the weakening of his [bodily] strength does not prevent him (from learning torah).

(R.Hartman - ie the Beraithat is giving a constant instruction to avoid being drawn after [physical] enjoyments (taanugim). But nevertheless, only one who is able to bear this and does not come to weakening of strength.. the Shulchan Aruch writes similarly (Orach Chaim 571:1) : "one who sits in a fast, if he is able to bear the fast - he is called holy. But if not, i.e. that the fasting causes him to not be healthy or strong - he is called a sinner. A talmid chacham (torah scholar) is not permitted to sit in a fast because he then diminishes the work of Heaven, unless the congregation fasts in which case he should not separate from them. Teachers of children are as torah scholars [in this regard]"..)
Seder Hayom - regarding what [pleasures] are considered "needed for learning (torah)" - all the time he is not doing this thing for [physical] pleasure but rather in order to strengthen his heart. And especially if he is sickness prone and is afraid of becoming sick if he waits alot. In that case, certainly it would be a sin in his hand if he does not eat and strengthen his limbs. For it is a big mitzvah for a person to seek ways to make his body healthy in order to be strong and healthy in torah study and doing mitzvot however he could, even if there is an aspect of bitul (annulling) torah or prayer.

For the mitzvot were not given for a man to kill himself and depart from this world at midlife. For what gain is there to profit one hundred mitzvot and lose one thousand? Chalila (woe) to one who thinks like this. He is but a "crazy pious" (chasid shoteh) and he destroys himself on something the torah did not command. Not only will he not receive reward for this, but he is destined to be judged for what the torah commanded "you shall live by them" (Vayikra 18:5) and not die by them, "guard yourself and guard your soul" (Devarim 4:9), "you shall guard your soul (life) very much" (Devarim 4:15), and other similar verses.

Thus we are commanded to guard our health in order to be healthy and strong to survive on the earth and toil in torah and fulfill mitzvot.

Included in this is one who fasts a lot and his heart is weak and he does not have strength to stand up thus annuling his torah study. This will be considered a sin and not a mitzvah. And if because he wants to repent from his sins he is forced to afflict himself (fasting), he should not do this in such a way that he fulfills one mitzvah of repentance and annuls torah study which weighs like all the mitzvot.

Rather he should do in such a way that he fulfills both such as not eating to fill his stomach but rather a little amount to maintain his soul and his spirit can stand with him and he will not annul his torah study.

And that which our sages said: "the words of torah endure only in one who slays himself over them, as written: 'this is the torah of the man who dies in a tent'" - the intent is not to say one should afflict himself until he causes his own death, G-d forbid. Rather, it means that the torah wil not endure in he who chases after the pleasures of the world and its desires. For if he chases those things, certainly he will not chase after the torah and its commandments.. Rather he should not pursue the superfluous and he eats to maintain his health and subsists with the necessary. This is called "death" relative to other people who go after the darkness and chase after the lusts and pleasures.

Through this, not only will he not shorten his life but on the contrary, he will be healthy and strong all his days. For he does not burden his body with heavy food and drink.

This is what the Tanna says: "this is the way of the torah, bread and salt you shall eat..", ie do not chase the superfluous and things difficult to attain. Rather after that which is easy to find and light and does not weigh heavily on you and distract your mind; "salt" refers to anything of taste which accompanies bread, whatever it may be, something light. "and water in measure" means to not drink water to fill his stomach and weigh down on him. This will come on its own. For since he does not eat a lot, he won't drink a lot. And since he does not drink a lot, it will not be heavy on him and he will be able to toil in torah as he wishes.

"a life of pain/difficulty you shall live" - not that he should afflict his body such that he will become ill. Rather the pain that he afflicts himself is that his soul lusts to eat and drink the enjoyments of people and he pains himself to diminish his lust in this but not completely chalila due to the reasons mentioned above. When the intelligent person sees these things, he will find them sound and easy to understand..
Hayom yom (Chabad 5703, mishpatim) - one of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov on the verse: "when you see the donkey of your enemy crouching under its load and would refrain from helping; you shall surely help him" (Shemot 23:5).
"When you see the donkey (chamor)" - when you examine deeply your physicality (chamor), namely, your body, you will see "your enemy". For the body hates the soul which longs to Gdliness and spirituality. You will also see that it "crouches under its load" which G-d gave to the body to purify itself through torah and mitzvot but the body is lazy to fulfill them. Perhaps you will consider "refraining from helping it" to fulfill its mission by starting with affictions (fasting, etc.) to break the physicality.

Behold, this is not the way leading to the light of torah. Rather, "you shall surely help him" - to refine and purify the body but not to break it with afflictions.

(translator: in our weak generation, afflicting the body through fasts, etc. may break a person so it may be better for most people to focus instead on helping the body by learning mussar and training the body to be disgusted by evil and to feel joy in good.)
Midrash Shmuel - "and in the torah you shall toil" - even though I told you that this is the way of torah, do not think that if you conduct yourself in this order I set for you that the learning will come easily and immediately without toil and effort.. thus he said "and in the torah you shall toil". For nevertheless the torah study needs to be with great toil and effort - all this and maybe.

"and in the torah you shall toil" - even at those times when you are in pain (btzar) and in suffering (yisurim), do not be idle from toiling in torah.

"if you do thus" - I know full well that not many people will listen to my words in this matter. But if you, ie you the [rare] individual do thus, "fortunate are you..".

Parenthetically, he also spoke to the hearts of those who study torah and are poor or destitute, who seek bread but there isn't - do not suspect G-d's ways saying: "I am serving G-d for nothing" For they will recognize that this is the way of torah. Her children are poor.

"fortunate are you" - for he did not waste his days chasing the superfluous and seeking imaginary honor.

And it was said in the way of mussar: "he who did not see or worry on that which did not reach his hands - his soul is tranquil, his mind is pure, and he lives a long life."
Toldot Yaakov Yosef, emor - "fortunate are you in this world" - for there is no path for the evil inclination to start up (mitgareh) with a man except through eating and drinking. There is no need to bring a proof on this as it is clear from the torah, prophets, and holy writings (Tanach)..

The yetzer hara (evil inclination) goes and stirs people always trying to find an opening to entice them.

But for this person who conducts himself in the way of the torah, there is no path at all for the yetzer to come to him. Due to this, the person is quiet and rests from the great war of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) and thus fortunate is he also in this world for the yetzer does not start up with him at all.

But for the person who wants to go in the ways of G-d and also eat and drink fully - certainly the yetzer hara will start up with him and he will not rest nor be quiet from the great and incessant war of the yetzer hara..
Chelek Yaakov, avot - "fortunate are you in this world" - for the chomer and taanug (physical pleasures) will crouch like a lion on the soul of man and incline him to everywhere it desires. Then like clay in the hands of a potter, so too man will be in the hands of his yetzer hara. But if he toils in torah, he will be free from everything..

"fortunate are you and it is good for you" - "bread with salt..and a life of pain" ie even though you do this, you must tell yourself "fortunate are you and it is good for you" (and not complain). Then it will be good for you in this world and the next. This is "tzadik vetov lo", when asked he says: "it is good for me", then he is a tzadik gamur (completely righteous)..
Maalot hatorah - a person needs to pain himself and his body on the torah. For the body is from the sitra achra and through breaking the sitra achra, the sitra of kedusha will rise. Through paining his body in torah study as written: bread with salt..and in the torah toil..."
Ben Ish Chai - Chasdei Avot - (kabalistic) "fortunate are you - in this world" - the plain meaning (pshat) is difficult. For "it is good for you in Olam Haba" is understood. Certainly there it will be good since he eats the reward of torah and mitzvot which he toiled in this world, the eternal good which cannot be imagined.

But when he says: "fortunate are you - in this world" - what "fortunate" is there in this world to live a life of pain, bread with salt, etc.

It seems to me, with G-d's help, that in truth the pain and strain which a man bears in torah in this world - it grants him tranquility and great good also while in this world.

For besides the eternal reward of Olam Haba, he is saved from Chibut Hakever (the beating of the grave) which is enormously great. And the wicked man who does not toil in torah and mitzvot in this world, he enjoys himself through eating and drinking and he sits like a king in this world.

But from this grows out and stems enormous pain in this world, besides the pain of Gehinom he suffers in the next world. Namely, the enormous pain which is unimaginable of chibut hakever (the beating of the grave). And the greater the pleasures he enjoyed in this world, the greater the zuhamat hanachash (impurity of the primordial serpent) will take hold on him more and the greater will be the enormous and awesome pain of chibut hakever. For they beat him in order to separate out the klipah (spiritual impurity) from him.

But for the tzadikim who weakened their physicality through afflictions in this world, the zuhamat hanachash (impurity of the serpent) which had strengthened and seized them melts away. And the tiny little bit which remains in them is separated out through a little bit of pain in the grave as known.

Thus, for the tzadikim who toil and exert in torah in this world, the exertion causes them great tranquility in the chibut hakever. But for the wicked, the enjoyments of eating, drinking, etc. in this world causes them enormous pain in the chibut hakever which happens in this world (in the grave). And also for his soul (nefesh), it will have in this world gilgulim in domem, tzomeach, vechai (inanimate, animate, animal reincarnations) which are very very difficult on the soul. All this is in this world, before he goes to Gehinom which is in the next world.

This is analogous to two donkeys carrying loads. One donkey carries a heavy load of salt while the second donkey carries a load of sponges which are very light and it does not feel the load at all as if there is nothing on its back.

The second donkey rejoices and jumps on the hills and sprints the meadows as if it has no weight. But the first donkey with salt goes heavily and is pained by the load for it is very heavy.

After they travelled several hours, they reached a very wide river which they both needed to cross with the loads on their backs. When the donkey laden with salt entered the river, the salt began to melt. After a few minutes, all the salt melted and dissolved and nothing was left and the bag was empty.

The donkey crossed the river happy and delighting. For no load was left on its back.

But for the donkey laden with sponges, when it entered the river, the sponges absorbed huge quantities of water and were very very heavy on its back until it could not bear the burden of weight and its limbs collapsed and the donkey drowned..

So too regarding man in this world. The exertion in torah and afflictions on his body diminish and remove the zuhamat hanachash stuck on him until it melts off slowly slowly. And after his soul leaves and his body goes to the grave, he will not be pained by the enormous pain of chibut hakever.

But if he removes the yoke of torah and goes after the lusts and enjoyments, not only the zuhamat hanachash does not melt off but it increases, widens and thickens more than what it was in the beginning and becomes a great bright leprosy on him.

This is what the tanna says: don't think that in the way of torah you will lose this world completely and will have only olam haba. It is not so. Rather "fortunate are you in this world". For there will come a time in this world where you will have happiness from this.
Yadot Ephraim, avot - "fortunate are you in this world" - we can understand this according to what is written in the book "Panim Yafot" parsha Lech Lecha. Namely that which our sages said: "there is no reward for a mitzvah in this world" (Kidushin 39b), this applies only to those mitzvot which do not have any bodily pleasure such as tefilin, tzitzit or the like.

But for mitzvot which do have bodily pleasure such as oneg shabbat or eating kodashim (offerings), mitzvot whereby the yetzer entices a man to have intent for pleasure of the body - if a man purifies himself to have intent only for the mitzvah of his Creator as the talmud says regarding two people who roasted the passover lamb, one ate for the mitzvah and the other ate for lust (the talmud initially calls the former righteous and the latter wicked). Then, one who ate with intent for the mitzvah receives reward also in this world, measure for measure since he conquered his bodily pleasure.

Perhaps we can say this is the intent in the mishna here: "bread with salt you shall eat", ie if you eat all delicacies of this world on Shabbat and Yom Tov, etc. and you put to heart to feel it as if it is just bread with salt and water in measure, thereby annulling the bodily pleasure of the tasty food then "fortunate are you in this world". For due to this, you will receive reward also in this world as written in "Panim Yafot"...
Michtav M'Eliyahu, part 1 - "fortunate are you in this world..." - there is no material happiness only spiritual happiness. He who is wealthy in the spiritual - he is the happy person and no one else under any circumstances. This is the matter we can see, those bnei torah who put all their mind, desire, lust of the heart, and enthusiasm (meretz) into torah and wisdom - they are the ones who will feel true happiness. Not only in the next world, but even in this world.

Without a doubt, a person who has no aspiration (sheifah) and no enthusiasm (meretz) is not happy. For aspiration and enthusiasm are the foundation of happiness, they are life. But when? When the aspirations are fulfilled and their fulfillment is not dependent on other people, such as jealousy and pursuit of honor.

Namely when the aspiration is from love of torah, love of wisdom, mussar, etc. Such an aspiration's fulfillment depends only on us. And the more we increase enthusiasm and aspiration, the happier we become.. This is the explanation of the mishna: "this is the way of torah.. bread with salt, etc.", ie if you are prepared even for this due to your desire for torah, then whether you are rich in money or poor "fortunate are YOU in this world" - YOU and no one else under any circumstances. These are true things regarding attaining happiness in this world.
Rabeinu Avraham Pritzel on Avot - "this is the way of the torah.." - that a man needs to habituate himself to subsist with the necessary and flee from (superfluous) foods and pleasures.. Through this he will establish his body and purify his intellect (nfesh maskelet) and incline it to good traits as explained that the torah enclothes those who study it lishma all the virtues mentioned earlier.

"fortunate are you in this world" - and when the body minimizes lusts and pleasures which are arrows and bitterness to the intellect, the reward drawn from this healing conduct is "ashreicha vetov lach" - fortunate are you in this world. People will call you fortunate for separating from bodily lusts in order to attain torah.

Likewise they will praise you for guarding your body in this world from the superfluous which ruin and cause illness to the body and you will not get sick.

"it will be good for you in Olam Haba" - the soul will pass on clean and pure for having fled from bodily pleasures while attached to the body and for having attained some perfections.
Matanat Avot - "this is the way of the torah.... in the next world" - it is impossible to say the mishna is literal, that those who study torah are obligated to be poor and destitute living on bread with salt and measured water, etc.

Rather, the explanation is that this is the way and outlook which the torah drills into those who study torah. Namely, even if your physical situation is unbearable and you live in a situation of "bread with salt, sleeping on the ground..", and not only you are financially poor but additionally you are in a situation of "a life of pain/deprivation" and you are surrounded by troubles and sufferings besides financial poverty, nevertheless you do not need to be depressed and feel death is better than life.

Rather, you have a way to escape from all the troubles and sufferings through "and in the torah you shall toil". For the torah is the only thing which can bring joy to a man in all the worst possible situations which can occur throughout one's life, as king David said: "if not for Your Torah which had been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction" (Tehilim 119:92).

"if you do thus" - the tanna promises us "if you do thus, ie this is something impossible to teach theoretically or through a mussar lecture. Rather, only through personal life experience. Only if you truly do this, to train yourself to learn torah despite all the hardships, will you eventually reach a situation of "fortunate are you and it is good for you". Namely, despite that your life in this world is full of troubles you will reach a situation of "fortunate are you in this world".

The tanna did not say "it is good for you in this world". For in truth you have troubles and sufferings which do not appear so good. But even that it is not "good for you" in this world, nevertheless you will feel happy and joyful without limit for learning torah and will not at all feel the troubles and sufferings as if they are just passing over you without touching you at all.

How is it possible to feel happy in this world if you have so many troubles? Through strengthening yourself in torah study, you will live with the knowledge of "it will be good for you in the next world".

And since you know that tremendous happiness awaits you in the next world for every second of torah study (and all the more so for torah in difficulty which is 100x more) then automatically this knowledge will fill you with happiness already in this world and you will not need additional means to attain happiness in this world.

For by us from childhood until old age our education is based on the principle that in the end, after all the life in this world, the next world awaits us above and there is the primary life. And one who has merited to attain Olam Haba (through torah and mitzvot), then for him he has already attained the primary in his hand! And thus even if he does not have wealth and pleasures in this word, it is not so critical.

This is as one who won the lottery and runs to receive his check for millions on a hot day. If he sweats it will not bother him at all. For since he is a millionaire, who cares if he is a millionaire with a little or a lot of sweat? He will soon have enough money to change the bathtub in his apartment or even the whole apartment.

So too for one who knows that Olam Haba awaits him for toiling in torah and doing the will of G-d. Thus it should not bother him any trouble or problem in this world. For he thinks to himself: "at a certain stage I will reach Olam Haba. There I will have a beautiful home with an awesome panaromic view of the radiance of the Shechina". When one dreams of his home there, he will not care about his home here and certainly on the surroundings and the problems with the neighbors.
Siftei Daat on Avot (Daat chochma umussar 2:71,3:2) - "a life of pain.. - the explanation of the matter is that we find in the torah by the blessing of Yaakov to Yissaschar: "he saw the tranquility that it was good.. and he bowed his shoulder to bear" (Bereisheit 49:15). For since Yisaschar was the tribe of which it is written: "who knew how to give counsel appropriate to the time (yodeah binah l'eitim)" (Divrei Hayamim 12:33) - "who sit and toil in torah", therefore he saw and recognized the trait of tranquility that it is good. For the trait of tranquility is a primary condition for acquiring the torah and acquiring tranquility is only through "bowing his shoulder to bear". This is because true tranquility comes specifically through breaking the body and diminishing its needs.

Despite this, he will not be distracted by anything and will remain in a state of tranquility.

But tranquility which stems from bodily comfort and fulfilling all its needs - on the contrary, this is the source of inner confusion (mekor habilbul). For he is used to tranquility only on conditions that nothing is lacking for him of the bodily needs.

On this we learned: "bread with salt you shall eat, etc." For in breaking the body and minimizing its needs, through this he will come to the true tranquility and then "and in the torah you shall toil" (Daat Torah 1:280).

Another explanation is that the secret of the whole torah is tzimtzum (constriction), tzimtzum in your eating, tzimtzum in your drinking, tzimtzum in your sleeping, tzimtzum in all matters of your life. This is the foundation of the trait of Perishut (abstinence) whose matter is to not do any action, deed or movement without complete need and necessity. Through this, certainly fortunate are you in this world and the next (Daat Torah 4:195).

This Beraitha is brought by the Rambam in Hilchot Talmud Torah (chapter 3 halacha 6). And in halacha 12 there, he writes:
The words of Torah will not endure by a person who applies himself feebly [to obtain] them, and not by those who study amid pleasure and [an abundance] of food and drink. Rather, one must give up his life for them, constantly straining his body to the point of discomfort, without granting sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids.

The Sages alluded to this concept, [interpreting Bamidbar 19:14:] "This is the Torah, a man should he die in a tent..." [to mean that] the Torah cannot be firmly acquired except by a person who gives up his life in the tents of wisdom.
And in halacha 6 regarding the 48 ways to acquire the torah, he lists "kabalat yisurim" (accepting sufferings). And in the talmud: "if he bears sufferings, what is his reward?.. and not only that but his torah study endures in his hand" (Berachot 5a). And likewise: "three good gifts G-d gave to Yisrael and all of them are given only through sufferings. They are: torah..etc." (Berachot 5a).

Thus it is. But the secret of the matter is that a life of pain and suffering is essentially a remedy (segulah) to grow and ascend in torah. Through this the torah is acquired and endures in his hand.

Come and see how the oral torah was revealed to our holy sages - in times of the worst troubles and tortures, in the pitch black darkness of the great galut (exile)!

Through those lives of pain and sufferings, specifically then came out the light of the talmud! Thus I found in the book of the pious Yavetz: "we merited this great light due to the darkness of the galut (exile)".

For darkness is a cause for light, as Rabeinu Yonah writes in Shaarei Teshuva (shaar beit ot heh). See there where he brings the verse: "although I will sit in darkness, G-d is a light to me" (Michah 7:8) which our sages explained: "if I did not sit in darkness, He would not have been a light to me"! Understand this. (Daat Torah 4:141).

"if you do thus, fortunate are you.." - if you ask: "but is this considered happiness in this world?" Know that if you would contemplate on true life, the life of torah, "you shall therefore keep my statute, and my judgments, which if a man does, he shall live in them: I am the L-ord" (Vayikra 18:5), you would certainly understand that "bread with salt, etc. and in the torah toil" - this is without a doubt the happiest and best life possible. (Daat Toorah 3:271).
Shevet Sofer, chelek aleph Beshalach - "fortunate are you.." - for this is the great primary matter and the cornerstone of receiving the torah - to be content with what one has, to not be frenzied to become rich or increase wealth and honor and go after the pleasures of this world. For this is among the things which prevent a man from toiling in torah and fulfilling the mitzvot.

Therefore David said: "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Your statutes" (Tehilim 119:71). And our sages taught: "this is the way of the Torah: bread with salt you shall eat..". For if his aspiration is to increase his wealth and possessions, then he will not be able to delve deeply in the torah. And the Rambam already said: "the destruction of the body is the upholding of the soul (hirus haguf hu kiyum hanefesh) (Maamarei HaRambam, maamar al hanefesh). Likewise the torah warns: "Lest your heart will inflate and you will forget the L-ord your G-d which brought you out of Egypt, from the house of bondage" (Devarim 8:14) and "Yeshurun (Israel) became fat and kicked" (Devarim 32:25).

One needs to believe that each and every day G-d will give him his sustenance and livelihood allotted for him and trust in G-d and not worry on tomorrow.

This was also during the manna. It fell down every day and G-d commanded them to gather only what they needed for that one day even if more than that fell.

They learned from the manna to trust in G-d that tomorow also He will give them enough of what they lack and to be content with what they have every day.

This is what G-d commanded them: gather of it one omer per person and do not leave over until the morning. This was "in order to test them if they will go after My torah" - if they will trust in G-d and be content only with what they gathered in one day. This will be a trial and through this they were tested if they will go and fulfill the torah.

This is what our sages said: "the torah was given only to those who ate the mana" (Mechilta dRashbi 13:17).

For only one who is like those who ate the manna, that what he has for today is enough for him and he does not squander his time to increase and gather possessions - to such a person the torah was given and also he will be able to fulfill it.
Daat Zekenim on Pirkei Avot, writings of Rabeinu Yerucham haLevi of Mir - "this is the way of torah.." - the primary thing is histapkut - to rejoice in one's portion. This is what our sages brought: "[G-d says:] the whole world receives sustenance in the merit of Chanina, My son, and for Chanina, My son, it is enough for him one kav (small measure) of carobs from one friday to the next" (Berachot 17b, Taanit 24b).

Notice it was not said: "Chanina, My son has only one kav of carobs" but rather "it is enough for him one kav of carobs". For the primary thing is "what is enough for him". For "there is no lacking for those who fear Him". Understand this. (R.Yitzchak Blazer).

we find similar sayings by our sages such as (Berachot 63b):
"'attend (hasket) and hear, Israel (hasket u'shema yisrael)' (Devarim 27:9) - cut yourselves to pieces [kitetu atzmechem] for words of torah".

"the words of torah endure only in one who slays himself over them, as written: 'this is the torah of the man who dies in a tent'".. (Berachot 63b)

Likewise on the verse: "black as ravens" - "in whom do you find words of torah? In he who arrives early morning and leaves late night from the Beit Midrash (house of study).. in he who blackens his face on them like a raven.." (Eruvin 21b).

We imagine that these things are just extra piety, mida chasidut. But know very well that these things are completely halacha as we see that the Rambam brought them as halacha in Hilchot Talmud Torah. Here is a quote:
"He whose heart has moved him to fulfill this mitzvah properly and to be crowned with the crown of torah, he should not intterupt his thoughts to other matters. He should not think that he can acquire torah with wealth and honor together. [Rather,] this is the path of Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink water in small measure, sleep on the ground, live a life of difficulty, and toil in Torah, etc".. and "the words of Torah will not endure by a person who applies himself feebly [to obtain] them, and not by those who study amid pleasure and [an abundance] of food and drink. Rather, one must give up his life for them, constantly straining his body to the point of discomfort, without granting sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids. The Sages alluded to this concept, [interpreting Bamidbar 19:14:] "This is the Torah, a man should he die in a tent..." [to mean that] the Torah cannot endure except by a person who gives up his life in the tents of wisdom...
Thus, this is the mitzvah of talmud torah from the aspect of primary halacha, fulfilling the mitzvah properly".

And earlier in chapter 1 halacha 8, the Rambam writes:
Every Jewish man is obligated to study Torah, whether he is poor or rich, whether his body is healthy and whole or afflicted by difficulties, whether he is young or an old man whose strength has diminished.

Even if he is a poor man who derives his livelihood from charity and begs from door to door, even if he is a husband and [a father of] children, he must establish a fixed time for Torah study during the day and at night..
We don't find the Rambam brings such a halacha in other mitzvot such as tefilin or the like. This implies the mitzvah of talmud torah is different in this than other mitzvot. For in the mitzvah of talmud torah, there is no patur (exemption) of oness (accidental/unable). Rather in all cases one is obligated to fix times for talmud torah, even when under the biggest burdens (tirdot) and under the most enormous difficulties. This is what the Rambam is teaching us on this and this needs explanation.

It seems the explanation is as follows. In the midrash (Vayikra Rabba 14:1): "you have formed me behind and before" (Tehilim 139:5, achor v'kadem tzartani) - if a man merits/refines himself, he is told: 'you are first (purpose) in creation' but if not, he is told: 'a mosquito preceded you!'".

Thus man was created "before" all creation (in purpose) and likewise "behind/last" of all creations. And in order to merit to be "before", man's job is to refine (lezakech) himself always. And as we learned at the end of the tractate:

"the Holy One wanted to refine/merit (lezakot) Yisrael, therefore He increased on them torah and mitzvot.."

And likewise in the midrash: "'the word of G-d refines' - the mitzvot were given only to refine people" (Bamidbar Rabba 44a). And to refine one needs to change his whole nature to the good. It is certainly obvious that there is no other advice than through torah study, the "precious vessel used to create the world" (Avot 3:17). Thus the torah has a special power to change one's nature (see Daat Chochma umussar 1:41-42).

And in truth, this is the root and purpose of the mitzvah of talmud torah - to change man's natures, to refine and purify him.

What comes out of our words is that the purpose of talmud torah is to change man's nature. If so, perforce the way of study must be against man's nature. For if the way of study is in line with one's nature, then it is not possible for this to produce a change of nature and the man will not become purified.

This is actually the opposite of the purpose of the mitzvah and in this manner the mitzvah of talmud torah is different than other mitzvot. For in the mitzvah of talmud torah there is no patur of oness (exemption of "unable"). Rather even in the biggest distractions and difficulties there is an obligation of talmud torah.

On the contrary, in this is the root of the mitzvah and the true obligation of talmud torah - when the study runs contrary to a man's nature.

On this foundation is built all the sayings of our sages which we brought: "this is the way of the torah..", "cut yourselves in pieces (kitetu) for words of torah.." (Berachot 63b), "to slay oneself", "to rise early..", "to blacken.." all of them are the ways of the mitzvah of talmud torah.

For its true regimen is when it runs contrary to man's natures. But one who sees to it that his torah study is in line with his natures, he should know that he has gone out completely from the bounds of the mitzvah of talmud torah.
Ben Ish Chai - Chasdei Avot - (kabalistic) "this (kach) is the way of torah.." - as known, through toil in torah, a man does a yichud elyon, Havaia E-heye, in the Sod of Chochma and Binah and a yichud tachton, Havaia A-donai in the Sod of tiferet and malchut. These two yichudim are hinted in the letters kach (kaf, kaf sofit) which are kaf open and kaf closed as Rabeinu haArizal wrote in Shaar Hakavanot in the sod maamar kach alah bemachshava.

On this the Tanna hinted, as is his way, in saying "this (kach) is the way of the torah", ie the way of the torah is to do these two yichudim elyon and tachton in the Sod (secret) of "Kach"...